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Visit to Anchorage

If you’re going to visit Alaska, unless you’re a big winter sport, adventure fan (which I don’t mind but am not a big fan of) – its best you visit in July, Aug or Sep. At least its going to be fairly pleasant at that time at around 60-70F. And these days if I have a long weekend, I try and get out of the house to avoid staring at my laptop🙂 – and go somewhere I haven’t been before or do something I haven’t done. Sometimes it feels forced, but I think it will be beneficial in there long run. Anyway, on the July 4 weekend – I flew over to Anchorage and had some fun.

I talked a little to a colleague at office as well to identify a few of the nice spots I could go to, made plans and for once got to the airport in decent time. I ended up standing in the Alaska line for TSA instead of Delta for nearly 10 minutes before it suddenly clicked. Just because I was going to Alaska didn’t mean my flight was Alaska airlines ffs. Jeez. How dumb can one get? Then I run out, and run to another gate and stand in more lines which luckily move much much faster and save me from f****** things up again. I manage that once at least every trip, irrespective of where I am going and what I am doing. Its incredible.

The flight itself was quite nice, and I landed in Anchorage a little after noon. Sat at the airport, downloaded lots of offline Google maps and caught a bus into down-town. I’m happy there was at least a bus available, Alaska has one of the worst. And apparently its only Anchorage that at least has buses. I mean, I can understand it – I  guess, maybe its just not economical to run it.

Anyway, Anchorage down-town is a fairly tiny place so I roamed around a bit collecting maps and things. There was a little shuttle that took you to a few places for free, so I hopped into 1 of those and spent some time in this gift shop called the Ulu gift shop – where they make these knives that can cut anything. I’d have bought one but that’d have been a waste since I wasn’t checking anything in on my return flight.

Spent some time in the Saturday market which was full of fancy Alaskan foods and smells that everyone was delighting in. Well, everyone except me that is😀 because fancy food = king salmon and reindeer burgers. #-o. So I went to the only vegetarian place in Anchorage which was a tiny little yoga studio, run by a nice lady. We chatted a while about vegetarianism while she made me my food, which was okay – not too great, but really I was just happy to have something to eat and am truly grateful to Sandy and her little cafe.

Walked around a bit more and then spent a couple of hours in the Anchorage museum. For a while I was wondering why there was a TV that showed polar bears and walruses on the ice moving. Later (I’m a little slow as you can see) I figured out that it was a camera at the North Pole that was showing them moving live. So cool. I spent quite a while just watching them, hoping they’d do something but they were content to just flop about casually. Oh well.

Some more time I then spent trying to figure out how rockets shot up, how sound travelled between solids and lots of other cool things in the Discovery part of the museum. Of course, I couldn’t understand a lot of it due to paying zero attention to things as a kid in school and college. But I mean, if you love museums its best you spend a whole day at each. Else its always felt like its far too little time. Oh well, I waddled out and realized that my AirBnB host hadn’t yet replied (turns out she had but I didnt get it thanks to Virgin Mobile :|) , so I mailed her (from a free WiFi) and said I’d be there soonish.

There was still an hour or so till the second to last bus, so I spent a while wandering the truly desolate streets of Anchorage. The town itself is very very pretty, since there’s the Pacific all around and the mountains in the distance, so if you didn’t want to do anything – it is easy to just sit on the banks of a river somewhere and read a book🙂. Just that I wouldn’t call it ‘bustling down-town Anchorage’ as some of the flashy brochures did. We truly live in a world where every single thing is milked to its last drop and blown up. Oh well, I’ll stop😀

There’s also this little unique thing (to me anyway) called the Planet Walk, where someone had an idea of making people exercise while erecting the various planets at specific distances from each other. These apparently mimic what there is in the actual solar system. I got till Mars and then decided I’d go back to the Sun, which was where the bus-stop was. Pluto (which apparently is no longer a planet :-o) would have to wait😉.

Caught the second-to-last bus (3N) and went off towards East Anchorage. Well. I thought so anyway. The driver decided it wasn’t 3N but 36 and went off way South, leaving me thinking what the hell I was going to do if he dropped me somewhere far away. As in, I’d have to walk a good 7 – 8 miles to get home. Anchorage doesn’t run buses like Seattle and Portland🙂. And no GPS. And my brilliant mental compass (which to be fair is much better now). Anyway the driver turned around eventually after a lot of old ladies in the bus shouted at him that he was on the wrong route.

So I finally got off half an hour late at Boniface Parkway and walked to Lee Street and rang the bell a few times. No answer. Wtf. Now what, sleep outside the door?😀. Then there was another young couple from Wisconsin who showed up and said that this was the right place. Oh well. Good. It wasn’t a complete disaster🙂

Eventually an hour later I was wondering when my host was ever going to show up, coz I was tired, a little cold, a tiny bit irritated and very hungry. So I borrowed a phone from the nice couple and called my host up who said that the key had been inside a plastic bag hanging from the door of the storeroom forever. This is what comes of being very polite and not touching anything that you do not own. I was looking under carpets etc for keys but did not want to open the storeroom door for fear of being prosecuted for trespassing. Too.Much.Thinking.Bad.

Anyway all’s good. And these days, if a problem is solved – that’s it. No more needless ruminating about the past, like I’ve been guilty of in the past. Bernie was really nice and it was a lot of fun talking to her. Microwaved some food, planned the next day a little bit and then went to bed.

The next day, there were even fewer buses than on Saturday, so I needed to leave on time and make sure I caught the bus at around 10. Of course I left *just* on time, lost my way and ended up staring at a highway which said ‘No walking allowed’. Which of course then meant that I missed the bus. HaHa. By now though, I’m almost certain all this WILL happen, so I don’t let it get me down ever.

Instead I went off on a nice walk through this park called the Russian Jack Park. Again, like most parks it was a fairly large one, which I wished I’d had some more time to explore. But it was really very pretty, and also had some nice trails that took me in the same direction I needed to go to catch the next bus. By the time I got out, it started raining, the bus didn’t show up on time and a really depressed looking guy I tried asking said he had no clue where the bus went. By now I was wondering wtf I would do if the bus decided to not show up, wander East Anchorage all day I guess lol. Anyway, the bus did show up and I hopped in.

The bus ride was *not* pleasant. There was these loud teenagers talking about how they got drunk for a good 30 minutes, which unfortunately I had to hear🙂. I did try to mentally block them out, but was only partially successful. Need to work on that more. People are going to talk and yell and all that. Its their right. You have to be able to block it out. Not with headphones. Listen to every piece of crap they talk and let it just bounce off you. Oh well, moving on🙂

Went straight to the bike shop which has a nice shuttle that takes you up to FlatTop Mountain‘s base from where you do the hike up to the top. The shuttle has limited space though so I got put on a wait-list to go if someone didn’t show up. So I wandered off to the top of the parking lot as suggested and took in a view of Anchorage. View from the top of something are always nice. While I wouldn’t pay too much for it, free views are always welcome. Can’t do that for too long though.

Anyway, I got my slot in the shuttle and Pete drove us all off to the base while pointing out things along the way. Been a while since I hiked but the body thankfully still holds up and I could get up and down relatively quickly. The last bit is a little tricky with lots of rocks, but all my bouldering experience kicks in at that time and helps. Anyway its a nice little hike, maybe 2-3 hours overall, depending on how fit you are. Got back to the base and caught a bus home, was pretty sore – the plan of doing a bike ride as well was over optimistic🙂. Had a long chat about a lot of Bernie’s experiences, which were really fun. That’s what I love about AirBnB, you get to talk to people you wouldn’t get to – when staying at a hotel.

Fell asleep pretty quickly and awoke feeling much better. Bernie dropped me off in Downtown, where I rented a bike from the bike shop and went down the entire Tony Knowles coastal trail, which goes through a number of other parks and spots – each of which you can spend a day or two exploring. But that’s the thing, it’s never possible. Never. Unless you spend lots of time just doing all this stuff.

I took in the entire trail though this time, without rushing through it on a high gear. Geared bikes are great by the way, specially if you have an up-and-down trail. Even so, been so long since I rode a bike that my knees started to ache after 15 miles. Anyway, sometimes having experienced all those feelings before is useful, and the mind can kick in and push the body when it is dead. Same here. Made it back in 1 piece, albeit fairly sore. Lovely ride though, do it if you can. And kept running into a couple from London all the time where we chatted about football (NOT soccer :)) for a while as well. All good.

Bought some plain rice and chips from a heavily meat oriented joint and ate it sitting on the grass. Anchorage is one place where I have no option but to break my dietary rules. Its just not doable otherwise. Well, its doable – but I’d have to cook. And I do that enough in life🙂 to also do it 2000 miles away from home. So no. Just no.

Spent a while at a little Aurora lights show, which is a spectacular presentation made by a photographer who sat down in the nights and clicked pictures of those spectacular colours in the sky. No way you can see those now though. It needs to be really dark and fairly cold for those colours to be generated in the sky. Anyway its a bit pricey – but hey, I spend money on a lot of useless things in life I guess – so why not support someone who took the effort to do what he did.

Took a cab to the airport, and learnt that cab drivers don’t want you to sit in the front for safety reasons (people mug cab drivers too :-o) and it isn’t for privacy reasons at all, like I thought. Anyway it was quite nice chatting with Madrid (the cab driver), I like to chat with people about their careers and learn bits about what they go through on a day to day basis.

The Delta flight back was quite nice and we landed a bit early. Took the Link rail back to the U District and the 44 back home to wind up a very pleasant long weekend in one of the places I never thought I’d visit. But that’s all life is – if you stay open and be open to experiencing new things, there isn’t a limit to what you can learn. And do.

Until my next travels then, Adios🙂

Wrote a book

Wrote a book. Been working on it nearly 4 years now, on and off. Self-help. Its free. You can download it here if you want to read it. Or from Gutenberg. Or Leanpub.

It isn’t perfect, might be littered with minor errors here and there, might have imperfect English here and there and so on. But its a book, which hopefully has something someone can use and help themselves.

All feedback – good, bad and ugly is – as always – very welcome. Feel free to get in touch with me however you’d like, to talk about the book.

My social network is very very limited and I have neither the intention nor the energy to cultivate it and become famous. And hence, I ask only one thing of you here. If you like it and feel that someone somewhere can use it – recommend it to them, send them the PDF or whatever, put it on your Facebook page, tweet about it.. you get it.

Thank You.

 

Visit to Portland

I decided to do this fairly late, after I found out it was a 3 day weekend. So I was fairly happy I even got bus tickets fairly cheap.. with a round trip of about 55$. Also, since all the hostels were booked up I decided to go the AirBnB route for once, instead of a hotel – and found a nice place.. fairly soon as well for 55$ a night all included. Slightly more than what I wanted to pay, and a bit further in Vancouver, WA… but these days, I focus more on what I want to do rather than needlessly counting pennies like the past🙂. So that was that…

Bus at 6:45am Saturday. Means get up at 5 and get ready. Obviously, I slept late that night, and since the night before was bad as well, I tried snatching a little bit more sleep, and suddenly realized I was going to miss my bus to South Seattle. I duly did, and crossed my fingers that the next one was going to be on time coz otherwise I would miss my bus to Portland. Luckily, for once Sound Transit decided to come on time, and I got into BoltBus near 5th Ave S…and was off..

The bus ride was largely very pleasant though and not very long at 3 hours and a bit, should book more Bolt Bus and randomly go here and there. Making me do more random things that don’t necessarily hurt me, is something that I should thank Dinesh a lot for. But I digress, as usual ;)…

Hopped off at Downtown Portland, went off to Petunia’s to grab some biscuits and gravy before I started roaming around. Once that was done, I walked over to the Waterfront and walked all along the Willamette River. While doing so, I passed through the Saturday market, which was one of the largest handicraft markets I’ve seen. There was lots of really cool, very creative stuff that people had made here — clothes, furniture, paintings. Of course though, I didn’t buy anything – what would I do buying stuff? And a secondary question would be – where would I put it? There was 1 really cool tool called the Flint Survival tool, that you can use to start a fire anywhere – while camping. Not that I bought it, but if I do camp some day, its worth having for sure.

Portland has some really uniquely shaped bridges and the Steel Bridge was one such bridge. The Broadway Bridge, was also uniquely shaped and quite nearby as well, so I spent some time just walking along the river banks and looking at all of them. A dog which kept furiously paddling in circles was the only other real source of noise there – super quiet place.

From there, I wandered around downtown a bit, which was really not crowded at all. I mean, it was a weekend and a lovely gently sunny day out, but not a ton of people outside. Maybe its because Portland isn’t filled with a lot of people all the time. Definitely has lesser people than Seattle for one. Then again, if you grow up in Mumbai, even New York seems very easily bearable🙂.

Went and spent some time in Powell’s City books, which is a truly massive book store and has every single genre you might want to read. I bought a tiny book lamp to clip on to the book, while reading at night – but had to return it the next day since it didn’t work🙂. Anyway, its very easy to spend a huge amount of time here and then realize you didn’t do anything else you wanted to at all.

Bought a day pass and took a street car over to the South East of Portland to grab a meal at Portobello Vegan Trattoria. I reached just as it was closing, but they were very nice and let me eat my meal. Nice to eat my meal out in the sun on a porch🙂. The food was delicious too, I strongly recommend you go there if you happen to visit Portland some time.

From there, I took another bus or two to go visit Mt. Tabor. Its a very nice park, that goes up up and up… from where you can see all of Portland. I walked around quite a bit, followed some trails through the woods, but eventually I think I ended up at the top. Lol. But by that time, I was fairly high above the surface, so didn’t really care much.. whether I was right at the peak or not, as the view really was quite gorgeous from up there.

Eventually, I climbed down from there (they even had steps there to come down. Nice right?) and took multiple buses and trains and buses to get to my AirBnb booked house. I was quite excited about this too, since I’d never stayed in one before. Took me a good hour and a half to reach, but it was so totally worth it. Martha and Carl were really nice, the room was nice and they had a very nice cat that was very friendly too. Ate my Microwaved dinner, since there wasn’t anywhere I could eat in Vancouver, and anyway.. I was really tired🙂 and went to sleep.

The next day was a Sunday with reduced bus service so I had to time everything properly before leaving. I wonder how we all lived without Google Maps🙂. Specially, in the USA where people don’t generally ask each other for directions, when travelling. Its all paper maps. Someday I should learn to read maps better. The bus was a bit late, but that was fine – since the train in to Portland was on a reduced schedule as well.

Went and returned yesterday’s broken lamp at Powell’s, grabbed a donut and took a couple of buses over to Washington Park. Spent a lot of time at the World Forestry Museum, which was really cool and told you every single thing you’d have liked to know about forests – this is a real must-see if you are in Portland. From there I walked/ran over to the International Rose Test Garden to see how it was. It was quite pretty, but a lot of the roses seemed to be dying, maybe it wasn’t the best season to see them.

The free shuttle which would get you back to Washington Park station was really late, and I was worried that I wouldn’t get to the Southern Tram Terminal in time to take the aerial tram into Oregon Health and Science University. Luckily, I’m still fit enough to run fairly fast upto a quarter mile😉, so that helped and I managed to get a ride. Really cool, you hang way way in the air for 4 minutes and can see a lot of Portland in the process. Definitely look at the timings though, before you go there to try it out.

It was evening by then and I hadn’t had lunch due to running everywhere. Grabbed some food at The Sudra, which was quite cool. More trains and buses back to Vancouver after that. En-route I had a pleasant conversation with a guy from Bangladesh about buses to Seattle, AirBnB and immigration in general. Got off at Delta Park, where it was very cool that the bus waited for everyone from the train to get in and then left. Saved me a clear hour of waiting at the bus stop. Talked a bit with my hosts, had dinner and then went to bed.

The next day was quite cool, as I had breakfast with Carl, Martha and a few friends and said goodbye. It was a nice, leisurely breakfast where we talked about a lot of different things and Rose even kindly gave me a ride in to Portland and told me where I could go to spend the rest of my Monday. Walked the entire eastern side of the Willamette river, which is a much nicer walk than the west in my opinion – right till I reached the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. I was quite hungry at this point, so decided to skip it (specially coz it was quite pricey at 18$).

So took another ride over to Sweet Hereafter and had a Pretzel Burger, which frankly was quite average and very greasy. I’ve tended to notice that most bars I’ve ever eaten at, don’t have particularly great food. Oh well, its vegan so I don’t complain🙂. From there I took a bus over to The Grotto which is a Christian worship place and describes Jesus Christ and his life and disciples. Not that I’m too much into visiting those places, but everyone mentioned that it was a very peaceful place and had great views. So, I mean.. why not. The views did turn out to be quite nice as well, so it was a calm afternoon spent there.

Back to Portland, packed some food for the night from a tiny Indian food cart and repacked my whole bag to make sure it wouldn’t fall out. All those years of trekking and travelling light and packing really efficiently all come in use at these times🙂. Walked around a little bit and eventually made my way over to the Greyhound stop and caught the bus home.

Quite tired at the end, and I was quite glad to be back to Seattle, but I enjoyed Portland – its a nice little city. Until next time then …🙂

What’s changed in me?

Ever since I took that break from work in early 2011 to freelance instead, I’d like to think that I’ve become much much more open minded to new things and opinions. And that’s definitely only gone up even more since I came to the USA a few years ago. But then, I wondered a while back, what really has actually changed? Was there any proof that I’d actually changed? So as usual, I thought I’d dive deeper into myself and destroy any illusions I was under, maybe to my own detriment… but hey.. got to do what you got to do😉

  1. For starters, since thankfully I make a very reasonable salary, if things suddenly go pear-shaped and I start to hate work, I’d probably quit and just not take another job for a while. Doing that wouldn’t worry me as much as it did the first time I did it.
  2. I don’t care much about being promoted, timely increments or a lot of recognition.. even lesser than I did before (which was already tiny ;)). It’s always nice when it happens, because it means you’re wanted – but if it didn’t I wouldn’t think too much about it, as long as people respected what I said and did.
  3. My internal anger-control-meter is very well tuned now. I would find it really really hard to get angry now. Even if I saw something I hate happening, it’d just go straight into the rational-brain-section. Not always of course, but I’m more balanced as a person now. Still needs work though..😉
  4. The conscious willingness to listen to someone else’s ideas and take them if they make sense is higher now. Living and working with people who have hugely strong but diametrically opposite opinions on things has helped me a lot here.
  5. Do more new things. Try more new things. I fail more. But I try and get out of my comfort zone more than I used to. Thanks Dinesh.
  6. I’m less emotionally attached to ideas I had or things I wanted to do, but no longer don’t. And can easily break free of them if they are not valid any more or the factors have changed. Playing more CTFs have helped a lot in real life as well.
  7. I care even lesser than usual about how things should be traditionally done. I just do what I want to do, as long as I haven’t made a commitment elsewhere to do things a certain way.
  8. I used to be very picky about what I ate (even with my own cooking) and when I ate it. Now it’s just common-sense, if I feel hungry I eat.

Volunteering at a library sale

I love being around books all the time, so I spend a few hours every Saturday morning volunteering at the library. So when they announced that the yearly biiiiggg Seattle sale was May 6 – 8 and they needed volunteers, I was super excited and signed up for multiple jobs 3 months before the sale. And for those who know me, very little in life really excites me😉. But as usual, I digress…oh yeah, the sale..

So the Friday of the sale, I was scheduled to be a stocker who would basically keep clearing up boxes, bringing them back, re-arranging books to make everything look neat and ensure we sold as much as possible. Must not be late…

So of course then, I missed a bus by 1 minute, the next bus came late and I got caught on 45th ave and then in Queen Anne.. and by the time I landed there, I was sure everything had started and I’d screwed up even before starting. Luckily nothing had…and I got my instructions, volunteer vest and started off with a very vague idea of what I was doing. In more hope than anything else, I wandered around trying to fit every corner of the room into my head using the memory-palace technique .. but of course that didn’t work.

Oh but I had a map. That’d save me for sure🙂. So.. the doors opened and the people swarmed in. In about 2 minutes…

Customer: so where are ‘Comic books’?

Arvind: erm… frantically looks at the life-saving map

Customer: ?

Arvind: heehee.. lol… let me find out. Runs around the hall like a fool with no clue

—-

5 minutes later… and with no answer… customer is gone. Oh no. Oh no. And look, comic books was just behind where I was. Its over. The pain has begun. I’ve fkd it up. I was a fool to do 3 shifts…and I can’t read a damn map. But as with most things in life, the start is always hard and you have to just stick it out and somehow miraculously, one always improves.

Same thing here, slowly I started getting a feel of how things were, how things were arranged, where which sections were… where the crowds were gathering, what places I’d already been to a minute ago, which boxes were getting really empty really fast and so on. And even learning how to read that map and doing without it after a while🙂. And helping people out a bit with their questions and where they wanted to go and what they wanted.

Now on Friday night, there was a limit of 35 books that you could buy. There was this large bunch of people with a huge number of boxes who came in first thing and started stocking up large quantities of books and DVDs in a corner. And I wondered how the hell that could be 35 books. Then  later, I spoke to people who knew… and it turned out they just bought multiple memberships and bought all the costliest books, and sold it to whoever would pay them the most. I don’t particularly agree with the whole process, its classic share-market trading in a library – buy cheap, sell high. And without doing a stroke of real work, well apart from clicking a scanner a 1000 times. It isn’t illegal of course, just that it kinda sucked that some people were benefiting a lot more than others and gaming the system.

If they took all those books say worth 100$ and sold it at 200$ overall, I’d be fine – it doesn’t cost a buyer much more than the sale, and its only fair that the person made some profit. But if they sold the same books for 5000$ instead, that’s not very cool, and someone’s getting ripped off badly. Anyway, as Mom says – it takes all sorts to make a world.

Then there was this little Asian lady who must have been nearly 90 and she was wandering really slowly, trying to search for her son. So me and other volunteer tried to help out, and understand what she was saying.. eventually understanding. The other volunteer went off trying to search for a person in a grey shirt while I tried to calm the little lady down a little and found a place for her to sit down. Luckily, and I don’t know how she did it.. the other volunteer found an Asian man in a grey shirt and we managed to unite them. The son didn’t care too much but the grand-mom was beside herself with joy. So, that’s great.

Lots of the same on Friday night, and it was great to see people coming in and buying lots and lots of books. I kept busy all night, all the time cleaning up, bringing boxes back and familiarizing myself with everything so I never had to take out the map again. Oh and a pen, that I thoughtfully figured would help – leaked ink in my shorts and one pocket now looks as black as coal🙂. By the time I left at around 10:30, I was pretty tired, grabbed some food and went home.

Sadly, I had one of those terrible nights when I couldn’t sleep well. Oh well. Next morning, I was back at 8:30. The role today was more trying to help people around, identify categories for them, help them find books if I could while continuously making sure that the tables were full of books, and empty boxes were always on the side, so the stockers could pick those up and break them up to take back. The morning was fairly hectic but much easier for me – since I’d had my baptism by fire the previous night🙂. Lots and lots of walking around, plenty of people saw the green volunteer vest and asked me all sorts of questions, which I hope I answered as well as I could.

At times, it seemed I couldn’t move fast enough – people would keep pulling books out of the middle and collapse stacks up, boxes I’d pushed in minutes ago would be out, books on travel would end up in the Marriage section, biography in travel and luckily no sex books ended up in the Children’s section🙂 – well, as far as I know anyway. This was a really long shift, and the 2 bananas I had for breakfast got greedily sucked up by my body’s cells in no time at all. Luckily there was some chocolate in the volunteer room I could eat (lacto vegetarian so I’m super strict about where and what I eat) which somehow managed to push me to 2 o clock.

By the time I left the Exhibition Hall, I was super tired and extremely ravenous. Doing physical jobs gives you an appreciation of easy (physically) a desk job at a computer is. As I say, its always good to do things you never did before and yank yourself out of your comfort zone – you learn more about yourself. Anyway.. ate a little at the Armory at Plum Bistro (only place I can eat nearby btw ;)) and dragged myself home and slept for a while.

Finally, Sunday and hence the last day of the sale dawned. Today it was a late’ish start at 10:30, for which I was truly grateful. Today, I was a cashier and got a seat in between a number of kind old ladies, who all patiently explained things to me. One of them talked a lot to me, and told me all about her children and grandkids and how nice they all were, and of course books she read. It was quite enjoyable if you ask me, always nice to listen to people.

Of course, I was a bit nervous to start off but once I collected money a couple of times, I was fine. Cashiering is nearly the last stop before the guys who buy the books head out, so you got to make sure that you collect cash properly – after all if you don’t do this right.. the point of the sale is lost. Its much less strenuous though, and I got to talk to a lot of people while doing it – which was really, quite nice. Over time, I’ve started appreciating the people in the world play in making my day a bit better. Maybe someday I’ll just become some kind of counsellor who can talk to a million people every day – who knows🙂

A cashier spot remained vacant in the afternoon, so I worked an extra half an hour and then headed back to Plum, grabbed a lentil burger and then walked back to the sale. I hadn’t really committed to the rest of the sale, but since I didn’t have anything better to do – I just helped out in every place I could, stocking, bringing boxes back, collecting boxes, emptying them, helping people.. whatever.. to try and bring the sale to a clean close. Of course there was a big last minute rush with everyone waiting till the absolute last minute to pay😉 – who doesn’t do that .. right?

This led to people at counting and cashiers being really stressed – because they need to close the cash boxes up. Anyway all was well, and things wound up well, albeit a bit late. I managed to buy around 15+ books with the free vouchers I got – I’m set for the next month or two I guess. After which I will donate everything back to the Friends🙂

Lots of stocking books up, tons and tons of empty boxes thrown everywhere so someone could collect them all, piling DVDs to precariously high levels to make it easier for the movers to grab, folding tables that I could barely carry, folding tables that we didn’t own and had to put back ;)… all at a very high pace, since we had to be out of there by 9 in the night. Remember, this was including all the movers who would just take what we arranged and throw it into trucks and arrange them back in the library. So, I worked till about 5:30 until everything was nearly done – until the final tweaking of making even more space, which I figured there were more than enough people to take care of.

Took the 32 and got off at some stop I never got off in the U District, and dragged myself home with that pile of books. Was really tired, of course, but it was 3 days really well spent. After all, books have been an unbelievably large part of my life – so 3 days of high intensity work, once a year isn’t much to ask for. Right?🙂

The stupidity of war

This isn’t a great post. It’s been bothering me for a while and I thought I should write it today and I’m writing it.

I grew up in India, which back in the 90’s was not as globalized as it was. And at that time I was just a 17 18 year old kid with no clue about anything. Now that in itself might raise an eyebrow – how can a 17 year old not know anything? But it’s the truth….

And it didn’t help, that I never read about the world much and would probably blindly believe a lot of things that people said. Now in the late 90’s as I was growing up, the USA for me was this big bully, who stomped around the world doing what it wanted. And whenever we used to discuss politics at school or college, for some reason.. it was always that the USA got away with a lot. And no one ever fought back, and so on.

And there were wars, here and there and everywhere.. and it seemed that the country on whose side the USA was (directly or indirectly) always won the war. So all that, you know just hardened my mental stand, that they were bullies. And even to me, who knew and understood nothing – bullying was wrong.

And then 9/11 happened. And all I knew was that someone crashed 2 planes into New York. I didn’t know what happened after that, who died or anything. The only emotion was.. okay someone paid them back. Now they won’t go around bullying people. And at college too, it was the same theme. No more bullying…. but I didn’t realize then, there was more to it…

And then… I came home, and over the next few days it started to sink in what it all truly meant. It wasn’t just some ‘act of revenge showing USA they couldn’t bully’. It was a brutal crappy thing that happened where a lot of families lost their lives. In the most terrible way possible. And there was no way that could be good. No fucking way. I was truly ashamed of thinking what I did. And a good 15+ years later, when I suddenly remembered what I’d thought for those few hours. I was truly sickened by the thought. And I wish I can wipe my mind clean…

And then the USA invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. And there was more and more needless killing. And then I started hearing about the Israel – Palestine war. And the India – Pakistan border skirmishes over Kashmir. And the civil war in Rwanda. And there were terror attacks everywhere. And there were religious Hindu-Muslim killings in India. And none of it makes the slightest sense. Everyone wants power of a different sort. That’s it.

The only thing that happens because of all this is that people die. Innocent people who’d rather live their life in peace die. Just because of someone’s misguided agenda. All the nationalistic, religious, caste or anti-whatever rhetoric by leaders in charge is all rubbish.

War makes no sense. It truly doesn’t. Anyone who says it does, don’t listen to them. Please. We’ll only end up killing each other eventually.

Shawshank Redemption

I’m not much of a movie watcher at all. I might watch 2 or 3 a year. Might. I wanted to watch ‘A beautiful mind’ for nearly a decade. In the end I ended up reading an 800 page book🙂. But sometimes, when I’m at a friend’s place and I have nothing to do or a friend who knows me very strongly recommends something, I watch it. And that’s what happened last week in Dallas. I watched Shawshank Redemption. Wow.

The books/movies who have touched me the most are those who have had some relation to real life. And I dare say there are plenty of ‘true story’ movies that talk about prison life, I’m willing to bet that not many will come close to doing it in as cleanly as this one.

The movie describes prison life brilliantly but at no point over does the violence at all. Everything is there, in just the right proportion. And the biggest lesson I took out of the movie was that of constructive hope. If you have a dream and one that you believe is worth working your ass off for, you never give up hope. Ever. And if we can have half as much hope in our own lives and believe in our own convictions (the good ones :)) half as much as Andy Dufresne did… we’ll go a long way.

And the quotes in the movie are the stuff of legend. I can’t think of a single one that is misplaced. The one at the end is probably the best. Dear Warden; You were right. Salvation lay within. Andy. He’s talking with the Bible as a reference, but irrespective of your faith, that’s how it mostly is… in real life as well.

I’m sorry for not describing any more of the movie or talking more about why it was so good. You can sit and read a million reviews online. I just wanted to remind myself of those wonderful 2 hours or so here🙂 since I watch such few.

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